SPIRAL Star Max Minghella On Working With Chris Rock, Reviving The SAW Franchise & That Big Twist (Exclusive)
With Spiral now available on 4K Ultra and Blu-ray, we were able to catch up with Max Minghella, whose bright-eyed character partnered up with Chris Rock to stop the dangerous new Jigsaw copycat!
This interview contains massive spoilers from Spiral, so proceed with caution if you haven't seen the film!
With Spiral making its 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray debut today, we were recently able to catch up with one of the film's stars Max Minghella (The Handmaid's Tale; The Social Network; The Mindy Project), and get all of the details about the Saw revival, which takes the franchise in a drastically different direction.
In addition to covering every aspect of his pivotal role as Det. William Schenk in the Darren Lynn Bousman-directed feature, we also talked about his experience working opposite legends Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, how his experience directing has reshaped his perspective as an actor, what comes next, the top-secret Babylon and a whole lot more!
Check out the full SPOILER-filled interview below!
ROHAN: Unlike the previous Saw movies, Spiral isn't really a horror movie. It feels a lot more like a psychological thriller in the same vein as Se7en, and the dynamic you share with Chris' character in the film is something we've seen time and time again in the likes of The Untouchables where we see a seasoned cop mentor the new kid on the block.
Was that aspect something that attracted you to the script? Getting a chance to subvert expectations as the young cop that knew a lot more than he was letting on?
MAX: Yeah I mean I love movies like that, I earnestly love them, I miss movies like that see, we don't get a lot of them anymore for some reason but when I say movies like that, not just buddy cop movies, I mean movies that has sort of real stakes, proper thrillers, you care about what happens in it and it doesn’t feel like a soft movie, but at the same time, there’s humor to it and it’s not pretentious at all, my favorite thing about Spiral is that it’s a ride, it’s fun and it knows hat it is, it’s not trying to - it’s not a pretentious movie is what I’m trying to say. I really like that.
ROHAN: You get a rare opportunity to kill Samuel L. Jackson on-screen and live to tell the tale - not a lot of people get to do that. What was it like working with him and getting to just observe him on set?
MAX: The whole thing was just sort of insanely humbling, I mean to get to work with both Sam and Chris, they’re just icons, and are both like specific heroes of mine, and it's just one of those things, I think most people go, ‘I can’t believe I get to stand here and get to work in a meaningful way with people who are so talented and experienced and brilliant and it was just a joy to make, I had so much fun making this movie and it’s also the hardest I’ve had to work, mostly because I’m working with people on their level, you don’t want to be anything that causes it to not work.
ROHAN: The vast majority of your scenes are opposite Chris Rock, who gives off this magnetic energy and is so quick-witted, so I imagine it has to be quite a challenge to keep up - what was it like playing opposite him?
MAX: Sure, again, it was so cool to get to work with him in a proper way and get to see how he works, he was so incredibly supportive. What I love about Chris, is that he’s not just a great actor and performer, but he’s also an amazing filmmaker, so when you talk to him about the scenes, talk to him about the work, he is seeing it from so many different angles, so many different levels of experience, I really like working with actors like that who do other things too because they tend to have a big picture of clarity about what we’re doing, I’m really in awe of being able to learn from people who are better than me, learn as much as I can.
ROHAN: When Schenk gets his off-screen "death," it's not exactly that difficult to put two and two together even if we don't know his motives, but I was wondering if you ever actually filmed a fake death scene or anything to throw audiences off the scent more?
MAX: No, I didn’t, the script, plotwise, it didn’t change very much, so there wasn’t really a need for that, but obviously because I was there for all the traps, doing the killing stuff, so that was really fun and different, and I really enjoyed the flip-flop of one day being somebody who is benevolent, and on the right side of the story and then the next day, putting on a pig mask and torturing people. It was a really interesting thing to get to do.
ROHAN: Oh, I didn't even think about that... so you were in the pig mask for most of those torture scenes?
MAX: Yeah, yeah, a lot of it, sure.
ROHAN: Murder is obviously wrong, but the movie does make it increasingly difficult not to at least sympathize with Schenk to some extent by the time the credits roll - I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a complete psycho, but we can sort of begin to understand where he's coming from since these cops in the movie let him and countless other people down.
With the film releasing after everything that happened last summer, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, has that affected your perspective on this film and Schenk as a character?
MAX: Unfortunately, this is an issue that has been ongoing throughout my entire lifetime, it’s not a new thing, and so it resonated when we shot the movie. It’s a very kind of compelling angle I think for the story, I like it because of the reason that you said, which is it makes you so conflicted about the villain’s morality, and all the great villains to me in stories, there's some kind of twisted logic to how they’re thinking. It’s not really interesting when a villain is just completely detached from any wisdom at all. There’s something there that you can get behind if you wanted to, even though obviously, I can’t defend this character’s psychosis, he’s completely insane.
ROHAN: Since Schenk does get away, have you had any talks with either Darren or Chris about a potential follow-up? Because it really feels like this story isn't over yet.
MAX: I’d love to do another one if there’s an appetite for one, but I loved making the movie, I love this character, like you said, I think the ending absolutely leaves the opportunity for more. To your question about directing and stuff, I absolutely am planning to direct another movie, I have to go back to Handmaid’s Tale, so it’s all just a question of timing and schedule and if I’m available, those kind of things, in the meantime, I’m writing a couple of movies with Jamie Bell, it’s been really, really fun and it’s something were able to do while we both have acting projects. It’s hard to direct a movie when you have an acting project.
ROHAN: I know you've been working on Handmaid's Tale, but this is your first film project in three years since your directorial debut Teen Spirit - could you tell me more about your process to becoming a director and when you knew you were ready to take on that challenge?
MAX: I spent most of my teenage years and my twenties carrying a video camera around. I was that annoying guy who was putting a camera in your face. I shot everything in my life basically and then I would edit them into little videos and it just became my sort of full-time hobby. If I went to a wedding, I would make a little wedding video. If I went to a birthday party, I would make them a little birthday party video. I just kept doing it and then I started to realize that I really enjoyed it and there was a kind of specific style by accident to the stuff that I was making, even though it wasn't planned in any way and that's how my first films sort of came about. It was really an organically experimental process and to take that a step further, so I didn't really direct a movie until I had practiced rather a lot.
ROHAN: What did you learn as a director that helped you evolve as an actor?
MAX: Good question, I don’t know if it’s helped me develop as an actor. *laughs* But, I’ve developed a lot of respect for actors, getting to direct, because I sort of realized how hard it is. Acting is such a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful job and anyone who does it, I think has a little bit of guilt about what a great job it is, and as a result, it diminishes a bit that it is a job still, and I was one of those people who was like, “Oh, it’s not real work,” but then when you start directing, you’re like, “Oh shit, it’s hard.” There’s a huge amount of pressure on people that I never really contemplated before, but it’s also so completely different and I think the thing I’m really grateful for is I get to do different things in my life and not just one thing, because I enjoy all of it. I just love movies so much and I’d be happy to do pretty much anything.
ROHAN: I know you grew up on sets watching your dad work, but you also got to work with David Fincher very early in your career. As a fellow film nerd, I have to imagine it was a mini-film school of sorts - can you tell me more about what that experience was like?
MAX: Yeah, I mean it's unbelievable, an unbelievable privilege. He is a true true master and I can't quite believe I got to work with him at all, it was a very lucky thing to happen and I'm so grateful that these filmmakers exist in the world and outside of my professional relationships, I am always first and foremost a fan and I just love David Fincher's work so much. I'm just inspired by it, I'm so excited when any one of his films comes out and thank God for people like him making movies.
ROHAN: Last question, but since you're currently working on Babylon, are you allowed to tease anything about that yet?
MAX: It's the very very early days right now but I'm so excited about the movie. Damien Chazelle is also just a filmmaker that I look up to so much and again, I think, again, it’s just a true, true testament to his talent and to just watch him work is incredible.
Spiral is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD!